Sound Transit University of Washington Station

Architect: LMN Architects

Owner: Northlink Transit Partners, A Joint Venture

Location: Seattle, WA

At one of the busiest intersections of transportation modalities in Seattle, the Sound Transit University of Washington Station creates a new unified urban space that untangles a morass of fragmented systems. As the city aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 62% by 2030 and works toward a more ambitious carbon neutrality goal, the station makes environmentally friendly travel easy and accessible for all users.

The station is embedded in a complex of uses comprising the University of Washington's Husky Stadium and Alaska Airlines Arena, the university’s historic Rainier Vista campus entrance, and a medical center. It is surrounded by a bicycle and pedestrian trail, 15 bus lines, and a nearby freeway that generates significant traffic flow. For years, the station’s intersection was the grand gateway to the university's campus, but its overlapping uses and the city's population growth reduced it to a quagmire. This project brings much-needed modern infrastructure to Frederick Law Olmsted's century-old master plan while remedying the intersection's woes.

The team created a sense of movement throughout the station and a deep connection with the neighborhood's urban fabric. A two-level glass and steel entrance frames views of the surrounding neighborhood, the Cascade Mountains, and Lake Washington. The core experience occurs when the station's escalators and glass elevators enter into its 55-foot high underground chamber, among the largest such volumes in Seattle. The team partnered with artist Leo Saul Berk, whose work, Subterraneum, engages with the architecture and references the geological strata surrounding the station.

The core experience occurs when the station's escalators and glass elevators enter into its 55-foot high underground chamber, among the largest such volumes in Seattle.

Above, the station's bicycle and pedestrian bridge connects to both levels of the entrance. As the bridge curves to span the adjacent boulevard, it connects directly to Rainier Vista. The bridge is a crucial piece of the city's plan to expand its bicycle commuter network, and it connects, through a bike lane on the State Route 520 floating bridge, to Seattle's 27-mile-long Burke-Gilman trail.

By working closely with Sound Transit and several other agencies, the team delivered much more than a commuter-focused light rail station. Functioning as a highly flexible civic gathering space, the station's plaza and parking area regularly serve as a space for fans to line up for entry to the university's highly attended football games. Following games and other large events, passengers can be staged in the plaza to avoid overloading incoming trains. The station's transparent headhouse provides considerable natural light, even in its underground spaces, further bolstering all users' experiences.

After it opened, the station surpassed Sound Transit's ridership expectations by nearly 30%. Its impact on the city is unparalleled, and its meshing of high-quality design and urban integration illustrates the opportunities often overlooked in this typology.

Additional information

Prime Consultant: Northlink Transit Partners: McMillen Jacobs Associates, HNTB, and AECOM

Structural - Station: KPFF Consulting Engineers

Structural - Pedestrian Bridge: AECOM

Civil - Grading, utilities, roadway: KPFF Consulting Engineers

Civil - Site Drainage: AECOM

Landscape Architect: Swift Company

Station Mech/Elect/Fire protection: HNTB

Mech/Emergency Ventilation System: AECOM

Traffic Consultant: Grijalva Engineering

Architectural Technical Facilities Coordination: Moniz Art & Architecture

Waterproofing/Groundwater Management: Dr G Sauer Corporation

Vertical Transportation: Lerch Bates Inc.

Acoustical Consultant: The Greenbusch Group

Artist: Leo Saul Berk

Lighting Design: Light Wire

Survey: TrueNorth

Systems Design: LTK Engineering Services

Construction Management: START: Seattle Tunnel and Rail Team

Contractor: Hoffman Construction Company


Kim Yao, AIA, Chair, Architecture Research Office (ARO), New York, New York

Phillip Bernstein, FAIA, Yale Architecture School, New Haven, Connecticut

Melissa Daniel, Assoc. AIA, Amentum, Annapolis Junction, Maryland

Magdalena Glen-Schieneman, AIA, MGS Architecture, Marina del Rey, California

Jim McDonald, FAIA, A&E Architects, Missoula, Montana

Marianne McKenna, KPMB Architects, Tornoto, Ontario

Conor Merrit, AIAS, University in St. Louis, Waite Hill, Ohio

Keith Lashley, AIA, HKS, Winter Haven, Florida

JoAnn Wilcox, AIA, Mithun, Seattle, Washington

Image credits

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Kevin Scott

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Kevin Scott

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Kevin Scott

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Kevin Scott

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Kevin Scott